By Tuesday, the pain in my body was almost gone and my strength was already building up. I can finally stand on my own without help or losing my balance. The doctor also said that I could be discharged the next day.
During the whole time that I was admitted to the hospital, Yeren volunteered to stay with me. Even though I was pretty hesitant about it, he insisted on the idea. Eris thought the same since she can’t ask dad to look after me, given our situation. I also never left that room the whole time, being cautious that mom might see me in a bad condition.
Yeren stayed during the last two nights, sleeping in the chair beside my bed. I was somewhat guilty that he might have an uncomfortable feeling sleeping like that but he never complained or said that he was unhappy about it. He also helped me when I needed to go to the urinal and provided me company which made the whole situation bearable.
I was in the middle of my sleep when I was awakened by the urge to pee. I gently rubbed my eyes and looked at the clock. It was only one in the morning. I turned to Yeren who was sleeping, his head resting in his arms on the bed. I silently spun my body to the other side of the bed and stood.
“Need some help?” Yeren asked in a groggy voice from behind.
“No.” I turned around and shook my head. “Just go back to sleep.”
“Okay,” he replied in a low voice, then he was out again.
Guilt came on me again as I took a fast release in the restroom. Yeren’s image of a growing eye bag and tired look which remained to replay in my head made my feelings worse. When I got out of the toilet, he was still sleeping, letting out low but audible snores. I tapped his back as soon as I returned to the bed. He slightly raised his head, his chin still resting in his arms, his eyes half-opened. I moved away from him, leaving a space in the bed, then patted the sheets.
He smiled, his eyes were half-closed. “No, I’m fine.”
I patted the sheets again.
He stood up. “If you insisted…” he said as he laid down beside me. It was then I realized what I asked him to do. The bed was small for both of us. We were so close, our bodies touching. My heart thumped like crazy and I felt breathless. He turned to face me, looking sleepy. He shut his eyes as I turned to the other side.
It was hard to fight the urge to look back and I lost at the end of a long mental battle. I spun to him again. I can’t help but stare at him, mesmerized by how angelic his expression was. I stretched my hand closer but I withdrew my hand just before I almost touched his cheeks. My actions frightened me and made me anxious. It wasn’t right. I turned away from him and moved a little bit to the corner as I put a hand on my face, my eyes tightly shut, my chest breathless. Shortly after, anxiety drifted me back to sleep.
When I woke up, I found myself pinned in place. Yeren wrapped his arm around my waist. He was breathing into my neck. Panic surged in my veins and my mind froze. I had no idea what I had to do. I couldn’t move, afraid of waking him up. I tried to move his hand but he’s tightly holding my waist.
After a while, Yeren let go which relieved the tension building up in my chest. I immediately stood but it still took some time before my heart finally calmed down. I sat in the chair where he was sleeping hours ago. I watched his back while he slept. He rolled after a couple of minutes and rubbed his eyes, then he yawned.
“Morning,” he greeted, just like what he did after I woke up in the last two days, though our position was reversed.
“Morning,” I replied as natural sounding as possible to hide what happened moments ago that started to endlessly play through my head.
He rose and spun, sitting in the bed just in front of me. I raised my gaze and looked up at him. He smiled, then gave me a querying look. “Did I hug you in my sleep?”
A stream of blood surged to my cheek as my heart raced. It was hard to speak like there was some kind of clog within my throat. His grin widened. “Sorry, it was an old habit of mine.” Even if he said that there was almost no guarantee that he was earnest about it. He looked amused by how I reacted.
Yeren has been like this for the last two days. He loved to talk and joke around like it was a natural thing for him to do. Before I realized it, I became comfortable with him around. The time we spent together was only brief moments but it seemed that we’ve known each other for years.
I stood up and sat beside him. A warm sensation was building up in my chest like something was filling me up and made me glow inside. Our fingertips touched. It made me a bit self-conscious but I didn’t pull my hand. We stayed like that and it was relaxing. The quiet was the most comfortable thing with him. Just knowing that he was there, even without words to say, made me glad.
His hand moved closer, gently touching the back of my hand. It made me a little nervous as there was a permeating heat growing inside of me. I stared at the other side of my room, realizing that I began to tremble. I didn’t know why my body reacted that way but I was overwhelmed by the stillness of that moment. I never felt so happy and vulnerable at the same time.
The door opened in the spur of the moment. I withdrew my hand immediately as dad erupted into the room. He held no emotion but when he looked at me, he frowned and threw a hostile glare. “We’re going,” he said, his gaze wandering to a large handbag beside my feet. “Don’t expect me to carry that for you,” he added, giving me another glare, then he exited as fast as he entered.
“What was that?” Yeren whispered.
“Dunno.” I got up and picked up the large handbag where I put all the things I used in my three-day stay in the hospital. I had already prepared it the night before, knowing that I could have been discharged a day earlier, though the doctor suggested that I stayed ‘till Wednesday to ensure that there was no complication in my head.
“You gonna be alright?” Yeren asked when we got out of the room.
I nodded. “He won’t do anything,” I said, tapping the bandage in my head.
Dad was talking to a nurse at the front desk when we found him in the lobby. The nurse gave him several scraps of paper which he immediately shoved in his pocket.
“I should be going first then,” Yeren said as we waited in a couple of chairs beside the front desk as dad paid the bills in the cashier.
I nodded several times. “Yeah,” I answered, taking a deep breath. “Thank you.”
“No prob.” he grinned, which was comically childlike. “I’ll just text you the address of the apartment. See you on Saturday.” He stood and walked to the entrance of the hospital. I stared at his back, hoping that he would look back but he didn’t. I stared at him until he disappeared behind the morning light.
Dad passed through me after a while. He didn’t stop nor looked at me, he’s rapidly striding outside. I followed him until we reached the parking lot. He hopped in the car without saying anything. He didn’t even lend me the key to open the trunk when I asked him. I invite myself in, tossing the bag in the passenger seat.
“Mind your manners, Ian,” dad said sternly and ‘tsked’ in disapproval.
It was frustrating the way he acted. It was upsetting like there was nothing good about me. Tremors were building up in my chest. I pushed away from the idea, not saying a word to him as I looked away to the window. He didn’t seem to mind my silence and reluctance to say anything. He turned on the engine and the car roared to life.
The ride on the way home was disturbingly quiet. The atmosphere in the car was tense and uncomfortable, almost unbearable. My heart almost leaped when my phone vibrated. I slipped it from my pocket and opened a message from Yeren.
‘Don’t let your dad hurt you again, okay? You can count on me if something happens.’
It was a simple message but it made me genuinely happy. I couldn’t help but smile as I reread it a few times over. I tried to compose a reply but I was surprised by a sudden slap on my shoulder. I turned around. Dad was grimacing, scowling at me in the corner of his eyes.
“Don’t smile like an idiot!”
I shut my eyes and bit the back of my lower lip. I remained silent as I turned again in the window. There was no way for me to argue back, being still like a dead log was for the most time, the best course of action.
I rushed out of the car as soon as he parked it in the garage. I skipped many of the steps on the stairs and dashed inside my room. I made sure to lock the door before diving into the bed. Everything was silent during that morning. Dad surely had already gone outside. Mom and Eris were still in the hospital. No one was home except me.
A shallow feeling of emptiness enveloped me in the darkness. There was some kind of pain in my chest, an overwhelming frustration and pain; a wave of anger that couldn’t be quelled. I tried hard to swallow them but it got harder and harder for me to understand why I was so deserted, like a stranger in my own home.
The phone in my pocket vibrated again. I reluctantly slipped it out and opened another message from Yeren. ‘Have some rest when you get home. 🙂 PS. The sky will be clear tonight.’ It was another brief message but it made me a lot better. At least, there was someone out there, reaching out for me.
I typed something for a reply but erased them right away. I tried hard to think but nothing came to mind. It’s funny that it took me ten minutes before I sent him a reply, ‘you must be tired so be sure to have some rest as well. PS. The stars will be out then.’
It was not even a minute when I received his reply. ‘I planned to but my body wasn’t up for it. Must be because I had a really good sleep last night.’
I wasn’t sure if he was teasing me about the hug scenario this morning. Until this time, it never crossed my mind that exchanging a series of words was also hard while texting. ‘You must be comfortably hugging me last night. Haha’
‘And it would have been a lot better if you hug me back :)V’
We exchanged a few more messages until I drifted to sleep while holding the phone in my hands. It was already five pm when I woke up. I decided to take a short run in the neighborhood before having a quick bath in the tub though I wasn’t able to wash my hair since the bandage wouldn’t be removed until Friday. I grabbed a bite with what was left for me in the fridge and left the house by six-thirty.
Mom was initially upset when I entered her room but seeing the bandage in my head changed her expression, “What happened?” she inquired, her eyes patiently waiting for an answer.
“I tripped on the stairs the other day.” My lips curved halfway. “But don’t worry, it was nothing serious.”
“Ian,” mom said in a very soft voice. “Come here.” She opened her arms as I reached out to her. She wrapped me around her and whispered, “You have to be careful next time, okay?” Her voice cracked when she said that and her light sobs started to fill my ears. I wasn’t sure why she started crying but maybe she was really worried about me. I haven’t visited in the last three days and when I finally did, I came with a head injury. We stayed like that for a moment. Her arms hung to my back with a tight yet feeble grip.
“Anyway, where have you been these last three days?” she asked as soon as she let go while wiping her tears.
“Sorry, mom,” I begged, her eyes giving me a querying look. “You know I had to find a boarding house or an apartment in San Carlos. It was harder than I thought.”
“This child,” she frowned, shaking her head. “You could have asked me. I know a friend who owns an apartment complex.”
“Don’t worry mom, I already found a decent place.”
It was a lie, of course. Though I already agreed to Yeren’s proposal, I have yet to see the apartment. I only knew the address which he sent me earlier that day. It was such a relief that mom didn’t push the conversation.
Mom asked me to stay the night with her so Eris can rest at home. I happily agreed. Before I knew it, I fell asleep by nine pm in a chair beside her bed. Later that night, I was awoken by the vibration in my pocket. I took the phone and read the message from Yeren.
‘The stars are beautiful tonight :)’
I rose from my seat and went outside.
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